The 2020 KTM 890 Duke R took us by surprise when announced during EICMA last year, but it was a welcome one, for sure. Just two short years after the release of the stellar 790 Duke, the 890 Duke R offers a whole lot more than increased displacement. KTM has remedied nearly all the problems the previous generation had with a host of mechanical updates.
We spent the day riding the 2020 KTM 890 Duke R in the sunny canyons of Southern California, giving us a chance to see if The Scalpel has indeed become The Super Scalpel. Now, let’s get on with the Fast Facts.
1. The 890cc parallel-twin is an absolute peach. The 890’s powerplant is fun, quick-revving, and energetic, which were all traits shown in abundance with the 790. This time around, it simply does everything that much better. With a claimed 119 horsepower on tap, the 890 makes 16 additional ponies, giving this engine a broad, versatile, streetable powerband to play in. A 20 percent heavier crank helps the twin deliver smooth, delicious torque right off idle, pulling incredibly well to 6500 rpm. Above that is where the 890 shakes its tailfeathers with more top-end power than the 790 Duke. Importantly, it remains tractable throughout the entire rev-range. It’s an engine that accommodates many different types of riders—those newer to the saddle and still finding their footing who keep reasonable paces, while also aiding enabling thrill-seeking behavior in riders who only know how to crack the whip.
2. The engine design is based on the 790, with serious updates to facilitate its boost in performance. The bore is widened to 88mm, and the stroke lengthened to 68.8mm, and it still qualifies as a short-stroke engine. The new cylinder head also houses one-millimeter larger intake and exhaust valves, working in conjunction with a more aggressive cam profile to increase lift. New connecting rods and three-ring pistons are lighter than before, despite being more substantial. What can be tangibly felt is the 20 percent heavier crank that has made the engine less prone to lugging at lower rpm, in combination with the revised balancer shafts that have dampened vibrations even further.
3. Aiding the greatly improved fueling response is a new Dell’Orto fuel injection system, accompanied by 46mm throttle bodies that tune each cylinder independently. Additionally, each cylinder is equipped with a manifold pressure sensor that is designed to maintain a higher level of precision in fuel delivery. The takeaway here is that throttle response is dramatically better in every mode.
4. KTM’s optional Quickshifter+ and gearbox is more refined. Engineers have shortened the lever-throw when shifting and used a lighter spring action. Taken together, you’re left with a tight, precise gearbox and lever action that makes banging through the gears a breeze. The optional up/down quickshifter is the way the 890 Duke R is meant to be ridden. While optional, it’s $400 that you should factor into your purchase.
5. Oh, the brapping you’ll do with the barking exhaust. The 435-degree firing order mimics the ludicrously potent 1290 Super Duke R’s V-twin powerplant, much to my delight. However, with that extra bit of power, the 890 has a bit more bass to its boom. I approve. One negative spot is a carry-over issue from the 790 with the muffler conflicting with your heel a bit and takes up precious real estate on the footpeg.
6. A full suite of 6D IMU-supported electronics and riding modes is standard. In stock trim, the 890 features Rain, Street, and Sport modes. They are non-configurable riding modes that adjust the amount of cornering ABS, lean-angle-detecting traction control, wheelie control, and throttle maps. Rain behaves as you might assume, ramping all rider aides to their maximum with a soft throttle response. Street wicks it up, with a throttle that’s great for slower riding in traffic, as well as ABS and TC responses that are aimed at casual riding. Sport lets the lead out quite a bit with a crisp throttle response, and allows for more than a bit of fun the canyons, including lofting the front wheel on exits, trail braking with higher lean angles, and harder riding. Overall, the electronics are impressive and don’t cut in prematurely; they represent their respective modes well.
7. Motor Slip Regulation is optional ($140) and another helpful safety aid. MSR has been appearing on KTM sport machines such as the Duke 790 and 1290 Super Duke R for some time now. Essentially, it’s an electronic aid that manages engine braking, working in harmony with the mechanical PASC slipper clutch, to stop the rear wheel from locking during hard deceleration or downshifting. It’s a handy trick to have in your bag when on the street, as you never know when you’ll need it. In Track mode, MSR is disabled to ensure that you experience a fixed rate of engine braking.
8. The optional Track Pack gives you access to the Track mode ($339) and is needed if you want to adjust the electronic settings. Once you dive into track mode, you’ll be able to customize every electronic variable in the menu, including wheelie control, nine-level traction control, and switch from Road ABS to Supermoto ABS (removes ABS support from the rear wheel only). Launch control becomes available, as well. Additionally, the Track throttle map is activated, offering the most sporty throttle response possible. It’s sharp, precise, aggressive, and not at all choppy like the 790 is. Also, you can run any throttle map you like once in Track mode.
9. If you want to save a few bucks, the $750 Tech Pack includes the Quickshifter+, MSR, and the Track Pack (Track mode). It won’t get you all the options in one fell swoop, but it does include the most important accessories.
10. Cruise control is available as an option. If you have long distances between twisties, it could be worth the $250 price.
11. Feast your eyes on the TFT dash, friends. To access all the aforementioned options, you’ll have to click through the full-color TFT display, which is completely visible in any environment. The dash allows riders to pair to your mobile phone, using the optional KTM My Ride Control Unit. This gives you access to turn-by-turn navigation and other commonplace features on motorcycles of this caliber.
12. The steel trellis frame remains the same, but that’s not a bad thing. One of my favorite features about the 790 is the chassis. Returning to the fold is the stable, yet flickable 58.3-inch wheelbase and 24.3-degree rake that ensures that the 890 is a pleasure to ride at any pace. It snaps into corners as fast, or slow, as you like, with little needed input for the rider. However, KTM engineers saw it fit to raise the ride height by just over a half-inch, giving it more cornering clearance, while also increasing the swingarm angle to improve anti-squat. The result is an incredibly well-balanced chassis that transitions quickly, tips in wonderfully, remains planted at mid-corner, and drives out as hard as you can muster.
13. New adjustable WP Apex suspension is one of the significant improvements for the 890 Duke R. One of the weak points of the 790 Duke as a sport machine is the non-adjustable suspension that featured progressive spring rates. Bolted onto the 890 R is some excellent kit, with the 43mm WP Apex boasting compression- and rebound-damping adjustment, although it is frustrating that spring preload adjustment is missing. Meanwhile, the shock is fully adjustable. We spent our day riding in the standard suspension settings, which delivered all the sportiness I wanted and support under spirited riding, while also doing an impressive job of hiding the rough stuff from the rider. The best news of all is that feedback from the chassis is brilliant.
14. Ergonomics have taken another step in the sporty direction. Don’t let that fool you; I was only sore from having fun in the canyons and not the pangs of sport rider triangles. The seating position is raised and pushed forward marginally to encourage more front-end feedback. Meanwhile, the handlebars are lowered and moved forward to achieve the same goals, without loading your wrists uncomfortably. The rearsets haven’t gone unnoticed, as they are now slightly higher and farther back. In practice, it offers a little more ground clearance, yet doesn’t compromise comfort for my 32-inch inseam, as I didn’t experience any significant knee bend. The footpegs even have a bit more surface area. Still, the slightly taller seat height of 32.8-inches isn’t much to contend with, due to the impressively narrow chassis. Riders with shorter inseams should be able to get their boots on the ground.
15. Premium Brembo Stylema calipers and larger rotors are standard. One of the most often critiqued components on the 790 Duke is the J-Juan calipers and master cylinder. While the J-Juan setup isn’t bad, they do take some getting used to and aren’t up to snuff with what we have here. The lusty Brembo MCS master-cylinder gives the rider the ability to change the lever ratio, altering the brake feel on a whim. You can go from a soft initial bite aimed at street riding to race-track-ready sharpness with a couple of clicks, while also receiving the utmost feel and power. When paired with Brembo Stylema calipers and steel-braided lines, and rotor diameter bumped up from 300mm to 320mm, it’s hard to fault the upgraded braking system. It even saves 2.6 pounds.
16. Michelin Power Cup 2 tires are ready for street and track action. According to Michelin, these carbon-black loaded tires are aimed at 90 percent track riding, making them a competitor of the Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa TD and Dunlop Sportmax Q4. With quick warm-up times and loads of grip, these tires offer a whole lot of unfettered sidewall, ready to be put down on the tarmac. We should point out that these are fair-weather tires, and high-mileage rubber they are not. If performance is what you care about, then you shouldn’t be concerned. For now, I can’t wait to test them on the track.
17. The 2020 KTM 890 Duke R has the potential to be the top of its class. For $1200 more than the 790, the 890 R remedied every mechanical gripe I had about it, and I offer my sincerest condolences to 790 owners. The suspension and brakes are now superb, only bolstering that lovely chassis. Better yet, the engine has been further refined, delivering more useable power for riders of virtually any skill level. However, since we are getting all those lovely bits, owners will have to spring for the $750 Tech Pack, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice to ride or leave the dealership without it. Essential pricey options aside, the 890 is a motorcycle that isn’t just confidence-inspiring; it will literally make you want to ride every canyon and hit every track within your grasp. It’s that good.
Photography by Don Williams
- Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
- Jacket: Alpinestars Missile
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro R3
- Pants: Alpinestars Crank Jeans
- Shoes: Alpinestars Faster 2
2020 KTM 890 Duke R Specs
- Type: Parallel twin
- Displacement: 890cc
- Bore x stroke: 90.7 x 68.8mm
- Compression ratio: 13.5:1
- Valvetrain: DOHC, 8 valves
- Fueling: DKK Dell’Orto 46mm throttle body
- Lubrication: Pressure lubrication w/ 2 oil pumps
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: PASC slipper clutch
- Final drive: Chain
- Frame: Chromoly steel w/ aluminum subframe
- Front suspension; travel: Compression- and rebound-damping adjustable 43mm WP Apex fork; 5.5 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Fully adjustable WP Apex shock; 5.9 inches
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front wheel: 3.5 x 17
- Rear wheel: 5.50 x 17
- Tires: Michelin Power Cup 2
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 180/55 x 17
- Front brakes: 320mm discs w/ Brembo Stylema calipers and Brembo MCS master cylinder
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ single-piston floating caliper
- ABS: Bosch 9.1 MP; defeatable w/ Cornering ABS and Supermoto mode
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
- Rake: 24.3 degrees
- Trail: 3.9 inches
- Seat height: 32.8 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.7 gallons
- Curb weight: 388 pounds
- Color: White/Gray/Orange
2020 KTM 890 Duke R Price: $11,699 MSRP
2020 KTM 890 Duke R Review Photo Gallery